House of Lords Select Committee on National Policy for the Built Environment
The idea for an ad hoc House of Lords select committee to consider national policy for the built environment was first suggested by Lord Hunt of Chesterton in a House of Lords debate on the Farrell Review in 2014. He said “There is unanimity of feeling about this report, and I would like to introduce a constitutional procedure and ask noble Lords to put up their hands if they want a Select Committee... We have never had a Select Committee on this subject. Select Committees are extraordinarily powerful bodies—I have sat on a few myself. It would be the only way to have a genuine cross-cutting move.” Ref parliament 28 July 2014.
In March 2015, Baroness Kay Andrews and Baroness Janet Whitaker (Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Design and Innovation Group) formally proposed a select committee on national policy for the built environment in England.
It was suggested that policy in this area cuts across many departmental boundaries, including the Departments for Communities and Local Government; Culture, Media and Sport; Transport; Energy and Climate Change; and Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and that there has not been a holistic inquiry covering the wider field of the built environment.
The committee might consider:
- The ways in which national built environment policy is developed and implemented, including inter-relationships between the different government departments.
- The effects of national policy in this area; the ways in which national policy affects local authorities, planners, developers, employers, infrastructure providers and others.
- The impact of the built environment on economic growth, wellbeing, social cohesion and sustainability.
- Elements that help to determine the national significance and importance of the built environment including, for example, the education and training of planners.
Select committees work in both Houses, checking and reporting on specific areas. House of Commons select committees are largely concerned with examining the work of government departments, whereas committees in the House of Lords concentrate on: Europe, science, economics, communications and the UK constitution.
Sir Terry Farrell said, “I wholeheartedly welcome the creation of a Select Committee for the Built Environment and am enormously grateful to Baroness Janet Whitaker for all she has done to secure it. The stewardship, long-term planning and identity of real places should be a fundamental part of built environment policy. This Select Committee will be a powerful new voice in that debate and we look forward to hearing more detail about its remit in due course.” Ref architectsdatafile, Farrell Review welcomes New Built Environment Select Committee, 10th March 2015.
In June 2015, it was announced that Lord Deben (former environment secretary John Gummer) was among the 11 peers to be appointed to the committee. The committee will be chaired by Baroness O'Cathain and other members include: Baroness Finlay of Llandaff; Lord Freeman; Lord Haskel; Lord Lingfield; The Earl of Lytton; Lord Macdonald of Tradeston; and Baroness Parminter. Ref Construction Manager 12 June 2015.
In July 2015, the formally-named 'Committee on National Policy for the Built Environment' set out the scope of its first inquiry and asking for evidence submissions. It will seek to establish '…what steps can be taken to ensure better planning and design and whether we have the right balance between national policy and local accountability for planning decisions. It will also examine the pressing national need for appropriate homes for a changing population, bearing in mind that decisions taken today will have continuing effects in the years to come.' Ref Parliament.uk How do we create a better built environment?, Committee asks 27 July 2015. The call for written evidence closed on 6 October 2015.
In February 2016, the Committee published a Building Better Places criticising the government's housing strategy with a sweeping range of recommendations that challenge some of the government's recent policy initiatives, and urging them to appoint a chief built environment advisor. See Building Better Places for more information.
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